Of all the summer spots that Washingtonians choose to make their home away from home, the Delaware beaches—Rehoboth, Lewes, Bethany—offer the most intriguing possibilities for vacationers who like to spend their days grazing as well as for those who enjoy lazing about in the sun.
Fine-dining restaurants, family spots, junk-food outposts—we spent weeks checking them out. Lots of choices, but no single category stood out, which suggests that the much-touted dining scene in Rehoboth is still more wish than reality. Note to restaurateurs: Less clutter, less fusion, please.
But being able to move up and down the gastronomic scale is what makes dining out so much fun—going from thin-crust pepperoni pizza to steamed crabs to live scallop sashimi, from hot, glazed cake doughnuts to oyster po’ boys to grilled shrimp in watermelon gazpacho in a single day. This guide is not meant to be comprehensive, but we think it’s definitive. These are places we’d go back to again and again.
And for more beach eating picks and for a couple of tasty places on the way, visit washingtonian.com.
For a guilty-pleasure breakfast . . .
The Fractured Prune. We’ll take yeast doughnuts over cake doughnuts any day. But cake doughnuts made to order versus hour-old yeast doughnuts? That’s a different story.
At this purple-and-chartreuse shop on Route 1 in Rehoboth, you won’t find a case filled with trays of doughnuts—nothing sits around. “First-timer?” the counterman asks. Nod in the affirmative and you’ll be treated to an O.C. Sand—a honey-glazed, cinnamon-sugar doughnut hot from the fryer. After that, it’s hard to resist putting in an order for six.
The Prune lets you customize your order. You choose from any of 16 glazes, eight toppings, and three kinds of sugar. Our picks: a chocolate glaze with coconut and graham cracker, and a caramel glaze with butterscotch chips. Or you can get any of 19 preselected combinations.
Almost as delicious as the doughnuts is the sight of middle-age men and women tearing open the white paper bags like kids on Christmas morning.
The Fractured Prune, 20241 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach; 302-227-0747; fracturedprune.com. Doughnuts 85 cents each, $4.45 a half dozen, $7.45 a dozen. Open 6 am to 2 pm daily.
If your idea of brunch begins with a mixed drink . . .
Blue Moon. The brunchtime, pour-all-you-want Bloody Mary bar is the big draw at this longtime address hopping with locals and weekend trippers. Some 20 hot sauces, tomato-juice alternatives like V-8 and Clamato, and bowls of horseradish, mustard, cayenne, and black pepper allow you to personalize your libation.
Brunch in one of the small dining rooms or on the back patio isn’t bad—if you know what to order. Two dishes really satisfy: the creamy eggs Benedict on toasted croissants with crab and the smoked-salmon-and-cream-cheese quesadilla shot through with capers and red onion. And the buffet of baked things has a couple of humÂdingers, namely a not-too-sweet hazelnut-chocolate muffin and gooey chocolate-pecan squares.
Blue Moon, 35 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth; 302-227-6515. Sunday brunch $17.50 or $22.50 with Bloody Mary bar or unlimited mimosas. Open daily for dinner and Sunday for brunch.
For a sit-down meal that will take you back in time . . .
Georgia House. Even without the retro-chic Jell-o–pretzel salad, Georgia House would be a find. Nestled in the tiny town of Millsboro, an easy 15-minute drive from Rehoboth, this sprawling restaurant with its wrought-iron accents serves Southern and classic American plates at nostalgia-inducing prices.
Begin with the bread basket, a hot, heaping pile of brown-sugar-crusted coconut-banana muffins, moist sweet-potato biscuits, and dense rectangles of cornpone that have the heft of a steamed pudding and the grainy texture of cornbread.
The buttermilk-fried boneless chicken breast is all crunchy crust—good enough to make us wish bone-in pieces were an option. Po’ boys are nicely done, too, from a cornmeal-crisp fried shrimp or catfish with dill tartar sauce to a piquant andouille sausage with sweet grilled onions, peppers, and mustard. Sides like vinegary greens and steamed broccoli with butter get the attention usually reserved for main courses.
And the Jell-o–pretzel salad? This old Eastern Shore picnic staple is as appealing as it sounds: butter-slicked pretzels layered with strawberry Jell-o, cream cheese, and fresh berries. One bite and you realize this is not just about nostalgia but good eating for any decade.
Georgia House, 119 Main St., Millsboro; 302-934-6737. Entrees $5.95 to $18.95 (for prime rib). Open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner.
Blue Plate Diner. You know you’ve found a gem of a diner when you turn up a field-green salad, a fish sandwich with hand-battered fresh flounder, a plate of shrimp steamed in ale, and Taylor pork roll, a rarity outside Jersey and Philly.
This art deco–postered restaurant in Lewes isn’t a move-’em-in-move-’em-out greasy spoon. If you wait a little for your food, it’s because it’s cooked to order.
The shrimp, perfectly cooked, come eight to an order, with a powdering of Old Bay around the plate for customizing the spiciness. Sandwiches are distinctive, starting with their pillowy buns. The flounder sends up a cloud of steam at the first bite; the Reuben Kincaid is made with fresh carved turkey; the Taylor pork roll is grilled and piled thick. Skip the pasta salad; ask for an order of fries for an extra dollar.
All desserts ($4.50) are made in-house, from a chocolate mousse cake to that current darling of pastry chefs, tres leches.
Blue Plate Diner, 329 Savannah Rd., Lewes; 302-644-8400. Lunch entrees $3.75 to $9.50, dinner entrees $9.95 to $18.95. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
Dish. Snug and subterranean, this retro American bistro is as much a place for the locals to dish as it is to eat. The playful dining room sports mosaic-framed mirrors and a collection of lava lamps that would be the envy of any ’70s flower child. There’s even an Etch-a-Sketch for the tyke whose parents have wearied of Thrasher’s and opted for a real meal. The menu tries to keep the fun going with chicken served “TV dinner–style” and a couple of witty nostalgia-driven desserts.
Cool cucumber soup comes alive with hits of Thai hot sauce. The juicy Angus burger, with pepper-jack cheese, roasted red peppers, and spicy mayo piled on, should be patented. A starter of shrimp-and-wild-mushroom raviolis with lush sun-dried-tomato pesto sounds busy but isn’t. And a special of perfectly grilled lobster shows the kitchen can play it simple as well. Best of all is the not-your-mother’s beef stroganoff. Wild mushrooms, onion, rib eye, and double-wide egg noodles take it several notches beyond the classic. A thyme-scented gravy of reduced veal stock and a dollop of horseradish creme fraiche blast it into greatness.
The only dessert that seems fitting after this retro feast is a gargantuan ice-cream sandwich made with Rice Krispie treats and finished with chocolate sauce and rainbow sprinkles ($6). It’s a festive ending to a meal that’s as much about entertainment as it is about good food.
Dish, 26 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach; 302-226-2112; dishrehoboth.com. Entrees $14 to $28. Open daily for dinner.